Monday, December 30, 2013
Love: The Wolf of Wall Street
2013, as many critics have been quick to note, has been the year of warped and violated visions of the American dream. Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby was a sugar sweet bit of capitalist maximalism that now reads as a throwback ground zero. It pulled Fitzgerald's novel into a landscape where self-making does indeed mean fame, wealth, and all the violent excesses that accompany it, and through its lens we have a way of reading so many of the similarly bent films in its wake. American Hustle, of course, is a film that offers an apt title for the whole sub-genre, but beside it we have The Bling Ring, where teens rob celebrities to become closer to A-list, and Spring Breakers (the now infamous "look at my shit" sequence could be directly paralleled with the swelling, romantic closet excavation in Gatsby..."such beautiful shirts"). Anyone who's kept on top of their filmgoing this year should be able to immediately trace the lines and find the thematic similarities between so many of the most eagerly talked about films, and many have been quick to note: The Wolf of Wall Street is, kinda, a Gatsby for our times.
Whether self-aware or not (I like to think Marty knows when he's repeating a pattern, and does so quite deliberately), the decisions made in presenting Wolf's many indecencies so zippily is one that works to push the film towards something so over the top that it may actually be revolutionary. No matter how many frat boy comedies you think you've seen, you've likely never seen as many atrocities played for laughs packed into one movie. Few things are shied away from, and the film does its best to offend anyone and everyone, to shock you with the absolute ignorance of its millionaires, to launch an atom bomb at the notion of morality. This is its curious beauty, its strange gift. In his 70's, Scorsese has given us the all-out, no-limits, distempered film that many have stopped short of in the past. The Wolf of Wall Street goes over the edge in service to the artwork, certainly, but also to make its point.